Austrian footpaths: the best in the world? Or just the best signs?

Robert Pimm
Robert Pimm

I have been walking Austrian footpaths for decades.  They form a wonderful network, and the signs are a wonder in themselves.  

How beautiful can a footpath be?  Austria’s are amongst the best.

I particularly enjoy the country’s system of footpath signs.  Over the past three years here I have photographed many of them.  I reproduce a selection here.

Things to watch for

As you wander Austria, you may wish to pay attention to:

  • nature – many signs are worn or overgrown or both, as wind and weather reclaim them.  This is usually a good thing;
  • texture: the interplay between sign, tree (or rock) and background is often sublime;
  • seasons: some, but not all, footpaths can be enjoyed all-year round.

Each of the following pictures represents a moment of perfection, somewhere in Austria.  If you know where, feel free to comment.

Austrian Footpath signs

This squirrel is urging people to care for nature

Austrian footpath signs

Any surface will do for a footpath sign

But most signs are on trees…

Austrian footpaths

Would you rather call the “Alpine emergency” or “Euro-emergency” number?

Austrian footpaths

Austrian footpaths

A “change of direction” indicator

Austrian footpaths

Austrian footpaths

Austrian footpaths

More modern signs may also show footpath numbers…

Austrian footpaths

… or combine numerous technologies

Some signs on rocks

Austrian footpaths

So this is footpath 404 or 42 (red and white).  But what is the number of the blue and white path?

Austrian footpaths

A superhighway of three separate paths

Austrian footpaths

Austrian footpaths

Austrian footpaths

How many years of tree growth has it taken to cover these signs?

Austrian footpaths

Multiple signs…

Austrian footpaths

A spring day above the retreating snow line.  Paths in every direction

Austrian footpaths

“Schneealm” means “Snow Pasture”

Austrian footpaths

This track-sign is spookily like the Ukrainian (or Lower Austrian) flag

Austrian footpaths

In “Three Men in a Boat”, Jerome K Jerome complains that marble gravestones will not weather, thus robbing them of charm.  Weatherproof walking signs pose similar aesthetic challenges.

Austrian footpaths

Austrian footpaths

Austrian footpaths

Austrian footpath signs

I don’t think this is a walking sign but it deserves inclusion

Austrian footpath signs

No walking sign here either but a magnificent bouquet of colour

Austrian footpath signs

Austrian footpath signs

If you are now feeling a strong urge to venture out and go for a walk, do not worry: this is normal

Austrian footpath signs

Another beautifully weathered sign (“The Königstetten Section of the Austrian Alpine Club”)

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